Research shows that non-native speakers take an average of 4-7 years to attain academic English proficiency (Cummins, 1981; Snow, 1987; Collier, 1995). It’s a long Journey, but one that is doable with intentional instruction and self-study. Parent support can often be a key component to success in this endeavor, so our ELL/EAL teams place a high value in communicating with parents.
At Daystar Academy, we have a tradition of hosting Coffee Talks: a gathering where we share food, ideas, resources… and coffee (and tea)! Over the last several years, our team has hosted dozens of these sessions as a way of opening up a dialogue about the program and as a way of learning and sharing together strategies and tools aimed to help language learners succeed.
We’ve learned a lot from each other during this process with activities ranging from phonics games, vocabulary strategies, asking questions while reading and using technology.
Through this process, we’ve seen a big uptick in parent involvement, which has in turn shown increases areas such as reading fluency, comprehension and vocabulary usage.
Given that not every parent can attend a Coffee Talk, we view it as essential that our parents have a way of perusing our bilingual session notes and resources. Thus, we place all of our materials and resources into an online resource hub. Parents can access programatic information, bilingual videos, bilingual PowerPoints and handouts and share them with their children or each other.
Parent Newsletters and Content Previews
As a part of our parent outreach, we send home semi-monthly newsletters that overview student learning engagements and various supports that we are using. We also send out previews of the next week’s lesson and vocabulary words, background knowledge videos, and an abridged reading or summary, as well as a unit overview. This has lead to students being more ready to start the week as they come to class on Monday already having background information on the subject as well as a general understanding of the reading. Students also often come in on Mondays comparing original student-generated definitions and sentences using the Tier 2 vocabulary or the week.
This initiative was a collaboration between the ELL teachers and Chinese teachers to help English and Chinese speaking parents support literacy at home in a concrete way by helping parents understand and use two of our favorite online literacy resources: Reading A-Z and Phonics Genius. The teachers collaborated with Chinese colleagues to shoot and translate the videos. The result was a marked uptick in use of these tools with parents and students!
Using Reading A-Z at Home to Support Your Child’s Literacy
Using Technology to Support Phonics at Home
Reading With Your Child at Home Using Reading A-Z
This initiative was a collaboration between students and ELL teachers in order to help all students and parents understand school expectations given that there were many new-to-country families to our school who had limited or interrupted formal schooling in the past. The students brainstormed school norms and agreed to them through voting. They then co-wrote the scripts and created the videos with graphics and sound.
Banaadir Academy Expectations: School Arrival
Banaadir Academy Expectations: Hallways
Banaadir Academy Expectations: Cafeteria
Banaadir Academy Expectations: Recess
Banaadir Academy Expectations: Bathrooms
Banaadir Academy Expectations: Dismissal and Busing